Betty Greene Salwak


Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | September 20, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay Mormons, Mormon

I was surfing working on my computer early one evening when the doorbell rang. The dog went nuts, of course, so I had to put down my laptop and find out who was here. It was three Mormon missionary boys, fresh-faced and eager to talk.

In an intriguing coincidence, I had been revisiting some writings by my recently deceased friend, Rance. He was a gay man raised in the Mormon church, and he was the first to make me aware of the depth of the pain caused the LGBT community by his church and many others. He wrote in detail of two suicides, one his first love.

Feisty, profane, intelligent and compassionate, Rance also spoke on his faith:

We could all tell these kinds of stories all day long. It is so easy to hate and to blame but in the end, we must rise above it. Rising above it is all we have. We must each find a way to emulate Him, and keep our eyes on Him and not the tide of misunderstanding that so often rises against us. In the end we should not be deprived of the Church because so many in it don't have a clue. It is just as much our church as it is theirs, it is there for us, for all of us, and the more understanding I gain, the more I realize that Christ would welcome me to the arms of the Church, and He is the only one who counts at the end of the day.

Rance's words put me in the proper frame of mind for this visit from Mormon missionaries.

The boys started out with their memorized questions, but I put a stop to that with a couple of kind rebuffs. At first I just wanted to shut the door, but then it struck me that I had a teaching moment here. I told them that instead I wanted to talk about the grave harm the church--theirs and mine--was perpetrating. I told them about how our denominations are literally killing people with the doctrine of rejection some are teaching on homosexuality.

They wanted to challenge me--politely--with "what the Bible says" about homosexuality. My reply was this: what the Bible reads and what the Bible says are two different things. I discussed the difference between the original languages and our imperfect translations due to the restrictions inherent in the structure and etymology of English; the cultural context of the original writings that is so crucial to understanding; and the overall message of the Bible.

In scholarly studies we see that there are compelling arguments to both sides of the issue, and there are problems with both sides. We can spend eternity flinging Bible passages at each other. So it comes down to this: what is the overall message of the Bible, grace or condemnation? What is the nature of God as you understand it? I believe God's message to be one of unconditional love and astonishing grace for everyone exactly as he made them to be. If God loves me, broken as I am, then how could he not love everyone else equally?

I asked the boys to think about it.

I thank God for Rance, for giving me the background and confidence for this unexpected meeting. You never know who is ready for what you have to say. Maybe one of those boys needed to hear exactly what we talked about that evening.

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Wonderful piece. Preface, hook, background...diaglogue, conclusion. So very much is discussed about this topic..and here it is all Condensed out to the Very Most Relevant.
Thank you.

(PS. Will share via Digg, fb and Tweet... Many can be refresed by this.)

I, coincidentally, got a visit from two of them about a month ago, when Prop 8 was still fresh on the minds of all of us.

I decided to challenge them a bit myself, and asked them why any church, including their's, would think it right to spend millions of dollars to deny rights to another group. As with you, they started spouting the traditional Biblical passages, and I calmly rebutted each.

By the end, the more talkative one was at a complete loss, and could only fall back to inviting me to visit with them at their church to discuss it further. I think he realized he'd lost the challenge, and needed backup. I told him there was no reason for that. They had come to my house, and my door, and so we could have the discussion here and now. He claimed to want to be in a place where the "Holy Spirit" would also be present, and I explained that my Methodist faith allowed that God and his grace could be right there with us on my front porch, and wasn't bottled up inside a church. Of course, he just wanted an Elder's backup.

He didn't have a good answer for that. I left them with the challenge to read more than just what their Elders presented, that if their beliefs were right and true they would stand up to a critical analysis, and they would be stronger in their faith for the exercise.

The more talkative one, I think, was a bit scared that he'd been so intellectually and theologically challenged. I honestly think the quiet one will wind up walking away from the church someday. I think he wanted to have a conversation without his friend around (and I am not insinuating a porn movie plot line here).

You know, in my encounter the first boy pretty much led the conversation on their behalf. The next boy had wide-eyed comments every now and then. But that third boy? He never spoke. He spent a lot of time looking at the ground. It struck me pretty early on that this boy may have really needed to hear about God's loving acceptance. I spoke with that in mind. You just never know.

My former partner used to take off his pants whenever the Mormons showed up. He'd offer to show them his holy spirit, but they never would take him up on it. We quickly got on the "Don't go there" list.

Hey, whatever works.

Rance was a friend of mine also. We met 'up on Brokeback Mountain' at The Ultimate Brokeback Forum in the Christian thread. He truly was a Christian and offered me friendship from someone familiar with the Church when I really needed it. Too bad he's gone...he is truly missed.


Sounds like a fun guy. If boys are going to go door-to-door like that, showing up uninvited and bothering people while they're at home without a care in the world, they might as well expect people to act in a manner to which they're accustomed.

Thank you for writing this article. I believe that gentle and loving interactions do more for the universe than aggressive confrontation. One person at a time, no fear, and lots and lots of love. Thank you.